The Element of Surprise

Posted on November 21, 2013

When you spend any time in a city like San Francisco you discover there are tourists with cameras everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that; not only are they creating memories for of a lifetime, they are also making it easier for me to take pictures without people noticing.

Hardly anyone pays attention to me when I’m taking their picture on Market Street. They are just so used to having a camera in their environment that they give my camera no never mind. Although I still keep my distance as I don’t like the in-your-face style of street photography. A successful photo for me is when someone doesn’t even know they’re being photographed.

There’s something about this shot that always brings a smile to my face. Maybe its the unexpected element like the little camera coming out of the window that I find so amusing. The camera is a surprise, you don’t expect to see it coming out of the window. Then there the surprising scale comparison, the camera is so little compared to the streetcar that it almost seems like a toy. Humor and surprise is a wonderful compositional tool and I should and use it more.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/2000, f/1.7, ISO 50

The Weight of the World

Posted on November 20, 2013

This alley is a block from my work and I’ve checked it out a number of times looking for some interesting light but I was never quiet satisfied. Finally I got the light I wanted and set up my camera for a shot. The idea was to frame an interesting composition and then let someone enter my frame to complete the image. I was actually waiting there for about 5 minutes when someone finally entered my viewfinder, it seemed like forever. The initial person was a man who was walking toward the camera from the far end of the alley. I got about five shots off when from behind me a women entered my frame. She was carrying some very heavy bags and had a this incredibly pronounced hunched in her back. I tracked her down the alley and captured her every ten feet or so. Although I really wanted to move into a different position, I stayed put and stuck to my initial composition.

It was not until I got the frames on the computer that I realized what I had captured. The arch in her back was a perfect addition to the repeating shapes of the light posts. Keeping her in the lower third of the frame makes it feel like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her back. I’ve processed this in both monochrome and in color and both work but the color has a certain mood to it that I really like.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/90, f/8, ISO 500

The Messenger

Posted on November 19, 2013

This was taken outside my office building after getting back from an afternoon photo walk. The light was incredible, the messenger’s gesture was perfect and I pressed the shutter release just when the UPS guy peaked out from behind the truck. That little addition took this from simple image of a bike messenger to photo with a meaningful message. I wasn’t sure I caught the UPS guy in action but when the preview came up in the viewfinder, there he was. I smiled and went back to my desk.

This image represents a changing of the guards, a contrast of old and new. The messenger has been delivering packages for many years in one of the most vertically challenging cities in the world, San Francisco. While the UPS truck driver is the new kid on the block and is taking over where the older messenger left off. Just the shear size of the big brown truck visually overwhelms the messenger. The messenger tired but he still has some deliveries left to complete and he’s going to keep going until his job is done.

It’s rare that I capture a moment with such clarity but that’s exactly what I always set out to do when I go on a photo walk. I was really in tune with my vision at the moment, probably the result of having been on a photo walk for an half hour. Being able to quickly get yourself back into that zone, when your vision seems so clear, is one of the best reasons to photograph on a regular basis. It does take a lot practice with the camera to be able to recognize moments like this when they present themselves. When your vision become so clear from being in the zone, you can make real connections. Maybe when Henri Cartier-Bresson talked about “That Moment” this is what he was talking about.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/90, f/5.6, ISO 200

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